A/N: I always thought Anastasia was a movie about self-discovery. Anya finds out who she is, Vlad finds out he adores puppies, and Dimitri finds out he isn't a conman. Because we all know there was definitely a turning point in his character where the journey to Paris stops being a con and starts being a quest to reunite Anya with her family. Most people, I think, would say that point happened at Sophie's mansion, but I'm not so sure...
Will be in two parts.
Sometimes I'm bold and brash, and sometimes I'm prone to crash
And sometimes I say too much, and sometimes it's not enough
But I'll never hold you back from something you want so bad
Just tell me so I'm not sad
He's developing a unwelcome habit of staring at her when she isn't looking. Or at least he hopes she isn't looking. Perhaps it didn't matter; she already thought him a insincere and a not a little bit irritating, so they might as well add 'possible pervert/stalker' to the mix. The thing is, he can't help it.
She's gorgeous. She really is. Almond-shaped eyes with irises blue as a Romanov, so big they almost overpower the rest of her features. Her nose is upturned and her lips, though they are chapped and torn, are a soft raspberry color. It terrifies him when he realizes he does enjoy just looking at her. It's like the stuff of books and movies, and it positively sickens him to think of himself as one of those types of men. Fluffy little butterflies that couldn't talk their way out of an open field and had nothing better to do than write poetry about the exact shade of their lover's eyes.
Anya's eyes are blue. Just blue. A pretty blue, granted, but nothing to wax poetically about.
Those very same eyes are suddenly upon his, but he doesn't look away. That would just give him away. Being a conman, he's gotten good at hiding emotions.
"Okay, I give up. Why are you staring at me? Do I have something on my face?"
Ah. Well. Maybe he isn't as adept at sneaking glances as he thought.
"Yeah," he says, his voice harsh, tone crass, just the way he liked it. "About ten years worth of Russian grime and dirt. When was the last time you washed your face?"
She is the one staring now, speechless and not a little outraged. She struggles for the words, opening and closing her mouth several times. Ultimately, she is too angry for words.
"We'll fix that when we reach Paris," he says, reassuring her in the most patronizing tone he can manage. Her eyes only flick to him for a second, but that is well enough time to shoot him a glare icier than the scenery outside the train window. He smirks, but doesn't feel it.
Damn. He really is good at what he does, if he isn't even sincere or genuine when making an ass of himself.
Being a conman, he's gotten good at making himself unlikeable.
He lets her cry into his already soaked shirt for a minute or two before he brings her back down below, wary of her catching a cold. She quietly changes back into her dress from before, more afraid of becoming ill than the unattractive wrinkles that might form while she slept. He replaces his shirt with a dryer one, but finds himself without a change of trousers. It doesn't matter. Soon he will have ten million rubes, and will be able to afford every tuxedo in Paris.
Being so close to the reward now, it makes the back of his neck tingle and itch just from the anticipation of it. He glances over to his charge, his very ticket out of St. Petersburg, the very key to the money that would let him live comfortably for a few years. Not having to worry about food, or clothes, or business, or ever companionship. Any desperate woman off the street would gladly be with him when tempted with a few rubes, or even just the promise of a new dress every week. The good life, the guys back at St. Petersburg, would say.
And yet...there she sits, Indian-style on the floor of the cabin, leaning against the side of her bunk. She's pensive, a look he hasn't seen her wear before. He feels like he should say something, but wouldn't now where to start.
Being a conman, he's gotten good at avoiding confrontation.
She stares, unseeing, into the air, looking more lost than he's ever seen her.
Perhaps...Perhaps when the Dowager eventually but inevitably throws her out, perhaps he'll be around. Perhaps he could convince her to like him, even a little. Perhaps he could promise to take care of her, if she'd marry him. Perhaps she'd be too sad to come to her senses and realize he's conning her into a life she wouldn't, doesn't, will never want. Or perhaps he'll do real well, and trick her into thinking that she doesn't hate him, trick her into love before she can realize that he's the most insufferable person on the planet.
She catches him watching her again, and he catches sight of the way she's still trembling, still shaking from the storm.
He's an idiot.
Sliding down into the spot next to her, he bumps her shoulder casually, smiling slightly. "If I hadn't sold my coat two stops back, I would've given it to you. Just to let you know." He's pulling the joking comradeship on her, hoping she'll buy it.
She sees right through him, of course, and doesn't say anything. She's got no reason to.
Again with the awkward silence, just begging to be filled.
"Anya, I..." he starts, before thinking of the ending. He trails off, and the words sound too much like the ones he uttered earlier today after they had danced. He winces just thinking about it. That...that had been bad. He didn't know what he was thinking, leaning in like that. Well, he knew exactly what he'd been thinking, but didn't know why he thought that it would be a good idea to just lean in like...like...someone he wasn't. Someone he would never be.
He hadn't expected her to reply. He looks to her, finding her staring right back at him. Being a conman, he's gotten good at having a way with words. Being with her, he's gotten good at putting his foot in his mouth and stuttering like an idiot.
"I...," he says again, not sure where this is going. Until he does. Until he's too scared for it to go any other way. He turns on her, blames her. "What were you thinking? Standing up there like a damn suicide victim? You could've died, and then where would we be?"
She looks back down to her feet, her shoulders slumping in such a way he could've thought her disappointed if he didn't know better.
"I was dreaming," she says, only half of an explanation. "I was standing on the edge of a cliff...and my family was on the other side." Her brow furrows, her expression growing troubled. "I...I wanted to fall. Fall like the rest of them. Just one more step, just inches, and then I'd be with them. Forever."
He's watching her, the way her brow crinkles and her bottom lip juts out slightly when she's confused. She turns her head to look at him, and her blue, blue eyes are now staring right back at his, slightly puffy and pink from crying. She looks resigned, and it's her quiet acceptance of this despair that tips him over the edge.
He encircles her in his arms, whispers in her ear, "It's just a dream, Anya. It's not real. We'll find your family, I promise." He think he feels her bury her face into his collarbone, her nose touching the base of his neck. He pulls her closer, gives her shoulders a gentle squeeze. "Even if it takes us ten million miles, we'll find them." He lips brush the tiniest wisp of her hair as he speaks, and he can't resist pressing a kiss to the top of her head.
They sit in that way for a while, and it's possibly the first person he's hugged in months. Years?
Too soon, she raises her head, but doesn't look at him, pulls away. He is hesitant to let her go, but does, and she retreats back into the spot she had been in before. The inches between them suddenly feel like miles, and he's got that particular nag at the back of his mind that tells him that he's done something wrong.
"Dimitri, I..." She echoes his words from before, and her voice sounds so very strange. It has been all night, ever since they started dancing. All high-pitched and confused and very, very un-Anya like. She's still not looking at him. "I want to thank you...for everything. For picking me up, and letting me do this. For saving me when I got sad." Her voice is warmer now, friendly and genuine and it is strange, but she sounds more like Anya than she has in hours. She turns those eyes upon him, and she's smiling. "It's best thing that's ever happened to me."
He looks at her, a sort of happiness bubbling within him. It's different but feels so good, so right, and he wants the moment to last forever. At some point he must've started smiling, because he can literally feel his expression fall when he remembers. Remembers it all, rushing past his eyes faster than the speed of sound.
He won't let it happen. Not now. But he won't change the subject, and he won't lie, and he won't intentionally be an asshole to her.
"Me too," he says, the words coming easier than all of the lies, "I..I'm so glad I met you." He smiles, crookedly, back at her, the best smile he can manage. For her, it's all for her.
He doesn't know when it started being about her, Anya the Orphan, not Anastasia, or ten million rubes. But now it's all about her, just her, and he can't remember ever feeling this hopeful.
When she says she remembers him, he feels like the air was been knocked out of his lungs. Anastasia, his Anastasia, is here, only five feet away from where he is standing. For a wonderful moment is overjoyed, the Last Romanov is alive, but then he remembers. Remembers who he is. Who she is. Who they are, and who they aren't. That's when he starts feeling like he's ten years old again, infatuated with merely a dream, the forever unattainable Duchess Anastasia.
How typical of him.
Anya turns her head, flashing him an excited smile from Sophie's couch, and he hears his master again, the cook's words still ringing in his ears. Princesses don't play with kitchen boys, much less marry them.
He finds it too easy to smile back at her, his false happiness shining though and true. Being a conman, he's gotten good at lying.
It's weird to say he's disappointed, but that's how he feels. Anya, however, is overjoyed: she found her home and her family and everything she'd been looking for. And he should be happy for her, but he isn't. He just can't be. His stupid half-baked plan to sweep her off her feet again when the Dowager dropped her is now useless, and if there was ever a reason they couldn't be together, there's certainly one now.
Princesses don't marry kitchen boys. They just don't.
And now he's disappointed. So he strides into the Dowager's sitting room with the determination of a bitter man seeking his revenge. Being nice, being honest, being that fairytale man Anya had always hoped for had only left him heartbroken. So he won't do that anymore. He's a conman, he was always a con man, and it was time he got over himself and claimed his reward. If he couldn't have Anya, then he could have ten million rubes. Easy.
Being a conman, he's gotten good at pretending to be someone else entirely just long enough before it all comes crashing down around him.
But he doesn't. He doesn't take it. He can't quite explain why, but he knows it's because of Anya.
Perhaps that's all he needs to know. Perhaps he is That Guy, and perhaps Anya is That Girl. Perhaps he's not a conman, not anymore. Perhaps he's better than that now.
Perhaps he's not.
Being a conman, he's gotten good at lying to himself.
He buys a ticket to St. Petersburg with all of the money he has left, and is not sure of anything, except that he doesn't belong in Paris.